Tag Archive: masks

Masks interfere with understanding speech for people with hearing loss

Photo credit: Cleyder Duque from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Understanding speech can be difficult for people with hearing loss, and the requirement for wearing masks during the current COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates this problem. Mask wearing muffles speech, and it makes understanding difficult even for people without hearing loss, as many people with hearing loss consciously or unconsciously use lip reading and interpretation of expressions to help understand what is being said.

And sound decays according to the inverse square law, so the 6-foot social distancing requirement reduces sound volume compared to standing closer to the person one is conversing with.

As noted in this piece from CNN, there are things we can do to help communicate with people with hearing loss:

  • Face them and maintain eye contact when speaking.
  • Speak slowly and carefully.
  • Ask them to repeat back what they heard, so you can be sure they heard it correctly.

And If that doesn’t work, now there are masks being made with clear windows to allow the listener to see the speaker’s lips!

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

We can’t tell if this is an elaborate joke (or not):

Photo credit: TaxRebate.org.uk

Hushme’s voice-masking headset could save your sanity! Or not.

The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just wrapped up and, as usual, there were a handful of “interesting” gadgets that we may or may not ever see online, much less at a retail store.  Hushme must be on that short list.  Essentially, Hushme is a mask you place over your mouth (while wearing Bluetooth earbuds) that allows you to take a phone call without other people hearing you.  And to add an element of fun to this “interesting” product, the manufacturers allow you to play a series of sounds through external speakers to further obscure things (while killing the idea that Hushme will allow you to make a call without distracting those around you, but whatever).  How is playing sound through external speakers fun?  When it’s “sounds of some R2-D2-style beeping” or “[h]eavy, Darth Vader-ish breathing.”  Fun!

Click this link to view the Hushme promotional video and see if you agree with the description of the Hushme as “stylish.”  And be sure to keep your eye out for Hushme’s crowdfunding effort scheduled for sometime this year.  $200.  That’s what they expect to ask for each and every Hushme.

Noise pollution puts songbirds in danger,

making them more vulnerable to predators. Joanna Lawrence, Natural Science News, reports that researchers have found that “noise pollution prevents songbirds from hearing and responding to alarm calls.”  The researchers discovered that anthropogenic noise, “a form of noise pollution caused by human activities,” makes it difficult for the songbirds to hear alarms, leaving them “vulnerable to predation” (i.e., being eaten by other animals).   The research showed that the birds’ failure to hear and respond to alarms caused them “to continue feeding in dangerous situations.”  More research is needed, adds Lawrence, to “fully understand the ecological impacts of anthropogenic noise.”